Good tools in more languages = great

Bravo to Google for making its Gmail service accessible via an Arabic and a Hebrew interface (via Khaled).  Fun to hear it, too, directly from one of the engineers.
This translation step, which puts Gmail at 40 languages, is so essential to the use of Internet in a way that will improve lives generally, enhance productivity, promote cross-cultural understanding, and positively affect democracies. It makes me cringe, the extent to which English is the lingua franca of the web.

A Neighborhood Watch for the Kenyan Parliament

One of Berkman’s all-time great graduates, Ory Okolloh, has launched Mzalendo, which is watching over the Kenyan parliament. Subscribe to their RSS feed; bound to tell important stories, and to be an important story itself.

They are “a volunteer run project whose mission is to ‘keep an eye on the Kenyan Parliament.’  The project was started by two young like-minded Kenyans who were frustrated by the fact that it is difficult to hold Kenyan Members of Parliament (MPs) accountable for their performance largely because information about their work in Parliament is not easily accessible. In our opinion Parliament should be one of the most open institutions in government, yet beyond the coverage from local newspapers it is virtually impossible to keep track of what Kenyan Parliamentarians are doing. Of course one can peruse copies of the Hansard, but one has to go through an arduous process to get access to Hansard copies from the Government Printer’s Office and most people do not have the time to filter through the dense information that is contained in the Hansard hard copies.”

Law + Economics of Cyberspace at University of St. Gallen

Today and tomorrow, I’m up on a hill in an eastern canton of Switzerland, teaching a two-day course on cyberlaw to graduate students at the University of St. Gallen with our friend and colleague Urs Gasser. The format is a good one: a framework for each of the eight, two-hour (!) classes by the prof, and then student papers presented for the balance of the time, plus discussion.

The first up is a student giving quite a nice paper on privacy-enhancing technologies and their relationship to e-commerce. She is emphasizing the broad lack of awareness of privacy-endangering aspects of life online; the series of technologies and legal remedies to which users have access; and the curious, or unfortunate, fact that Internet users have not widely adopted privacy-enhancing technologies, in Europe and elsewhere. So, should the state step in to ensure that we look after our own online data privacy, absent users helping themselves?

A social norm, separating Switzerland and the United States: at the end of a student presentation, I was the only one clapping. Everyone else: rapping on the table. A cool, maybe better, sound.